7 Employers Supporting Employee Mental Health during COVID-19

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Tue, 05/05/2020 – 08:10

By Taylor Adams, Manager of Workplace Mental Health at Mental Health America

Large and small employers across all industries are quickly adapting to changes brought on by COVID-19. As an immediate response, many employers have transitioned to fully remote or semi-remote work environments, which can be stressful, lonely, or isolating for some employees. In addition to addressing health and safety concerns, many employers are finding ways to support their employees’ mental health to better cope in this new reality.

Here at MHA, many of us have faced our own anxieties around staying safe, healthy, and connected. Fortunately, our leadership acknowledged these concerns and asked employees how MHA can best support them during this time. Based on feedback from staff, leadership responded with additional PTO, schedule flexibility, positivity breaks during staff meetings, and self-care packages.

And thankfully, MHA is not the only organization recognizing the mental health impact of this pandemic. From mental health awareness campaigns to one-on-one counseling to meditation, here are seven companies who shared with us how they are supporting employee mental health during COVID-19:

1. Chevron Corporation

“Chevron has always been a strong advocate for mental and physical health and well-being support resources, especially during times of crisis. Our Employee Assistance and WorkLife Services program provides access to licensed counselors to help employees cope with fear, anxiety and other emotions or concerns they may have. Currently, a corporate-wide mental health campaign is underway to increase awareness and reduce stigma associated with mental health. Self-guided resilience resources are also accessible for all employees.

“Equally as important are healthy lifestyle behaviors that contribute to physical, emotional and social health. Physical activity, balanced diet, and adequate sleep are frequently reinforced, in addition to ergonomics and repetitive stress injury prevention for employees working remotely. Extra emphasis is being given to infection prevention safeguards to help protect our health, regardless of work location.

“In addition, Chevron is helping communities and nonprofits address COVID-19. In the U.S., we have donated more than $3.5 million to local relief efforts and an additional $2 million to match 2:1 employee contributions to U.S.-based nonprofits. Outside the U.S., we continue to work with partners on a variety of health-related response efforts and have committed more than $12 million total around the world.”

Chevron Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemicals and additives; generates power; and develops and deploys technologies that enhance business value in every aspect of the company’s operations.

In 2018, Chevron Corporation was the annual recipient of MHA’s Corporate Excellence Award for their commitment to creating a mentally healthy workplace for employees.

2. Culligan Water

“With the rapid development of the pandemic, Packard Culligan Water identified the need to ensure mental health was a part of their strategy to help deepen the trust and commitment of employees and to sustain beyond this pivotal time.

“Because of the company’s established commitment to well-being, employees have access to various resources already in place, including an onsite HealthSource Solutions Well-being Program Manager and health coach, virtual well-being portal, and Employee Assistance Program counseling.

Culligan is now also offering the following at no cost to employees:

  • Weekly self-care videos
  • 1:1 health coaching for employees and their spouses
  • Manager well-being calls
  • Weekly well-being communications
  • Live meditation sessions and activity breaks
  • Resiliency and stress management activities
  • Morale boosting activities

“In addition, one of the company’s owners spoke personally to mental well-being in an all-employee video communication. He shared his mental health activities while encouraging employees to practice self-care and utilize resources. Culligan is utilizing leadership testimonials to inspire, engage and empower Culligan employees on a personal level to take care of their mental health.”

Culligan Water is a professional water treatment and bottled water company, utilizing its resources to be a valued partner in their communities. They provide education and solutions to water issues with an emphasis on customer satisfaction.

3. Devils Backbone Brewing Company

“To ensure the health and well-being of our employees, Devils Backbone Brewing Company has been working hard to engage our staff in fun and meaningful ways, and to ensure their ongoing safety. At our facilities, we have implemented daily temperature checks, distributed homemade masks, and rolled out social distancing criteria to protect our employees’ physical health.

“We have also hosted a variety of themed happy hours on Zoom, from a lip sync battle to Disney to Halloween. Our teams have organized a special Zoom meeting for parents who are balancing childcare with remote work, and we have encouraged professional development by starting a virtual book club and offering courses through LinkedIn Learning.

“Our standing policy of self-managed leave has been especially valuable for staff knowing they have the flexibility and support to take time off, even if that time is spent at home away from work. We continue to invite ideas from staff about ways to stay engaged, remain healthy, and reduce stress as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Devils Backbone Brewing Company is a brewpub located in Roseland, Virginia, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. It was established in 2008 by Steven Crandall. In 2012, a 15,000 square foot production facility and tap room, referred to as “The Outpost”, was established near Lexington, Virginia.

As part of Devils Backbone’s community impact program called the Heartland Initiative, Devil’s Backbone created an Adventure Pack with the intent to support nonprofits that employees selected. As part of the Pack, employees brewed a signature beer they called Bell of Hope with the goal of fundraising on MHA’s behalf and mission. The Adventure Pack was sold regionally in the fall of 2019.

4. Financial Times

“Here at the Financial Times, we have really shifted the focus onto the mental well-being of our employees and how we can best provide support. We have mobilized our internal network of mental health ambassadors to ensure all employees know they have that resource for support. We have also partnered extensively with our Employee Assistance Provider to not only provide their regular one-on-one counselling but also to provide bespoke webinars for our employees on a variety of topics.

“We already provide meditation via Headspace, but they have been a helpful partner in providing free meditation sessions for our non-members. In addition, one of our colleagues leads a weekly, virtual, guided meditation session for all to join.

“We have also tried to understand the impact that a reduction in social connections may have on employee’s mental well-being, so we hold a fortnightly “keeping connected” session during which we meet on video and share tips on topics like staying active and great podcasts. Finally, we are planning for our annual mental health awareness week in the middle of May which this year will all be run virtually. We will be holding several workshops on topics like better sleep in addition to some animal therapy with a virtual tour of an animal sanctuary which employees will be invited to attend with their families.”

The Financial Times is one of the world’s leading news organizations, recognized internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. It is part of Nikkei Inc., which provides a broad range of information, news and services for the global business community.

5. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PG&E has put employee and public health and safety at the forefront of its decisions and actions. Recognizing the potential psychological toll of this health crisis, the company has addressed this issue in multiple ways:

  • Executive messages: In videos, emails and weekly all-employee calls, the company’s CEO and President, Andrew Vesey, has reiterated the importance of employees not ignoring their mental health, and reaching out for support when needed.
  • Companywide communications: Through newsletters, webinars, and podcasts, the company has tackled the issue head-on, exploring related topics like stigma, relationships, anxiety, balancing work and life, homeschooling, and staying connected while physical distancing.
  • User-generated content: Employees have shared their stories on caring for a child with special needs during the pandemic and accessing drug and alcohol recovery services virtually.
  • Website: The company established an intranet page—and later built an entire website—dedicated to the topic, giving employees an easy and confidential way to access health information. On the intranet, the company posted a virtual gratitude board where employees can share what they are grateful for.
  • Person-to-person assistance: PG&E set up a dedicated branch of its HR phone line to assist employees looking for answers on topics such as medical, compensation, and benefits. PG&E also provided resources on domestic abuse for employees who may be in a more precarious situation due to the pandemic. Counseling has gone virtual through the Employee Assistance Program’s on site and community-based counselors.”

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), incorporated in California in 1905, is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, the company is a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation. There are approximately 24,000 employees who carry out Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s primary business—the transmission and delivery of energy.


“TIAA offers a range of communications forums and benefits to support the mental and emotional health of associates and ensure they have the information, resources, and support during COVID-19.  

“Executive committee members to frontline managers are engaged in helping associates during this challenging time.  TIAA’s Employee Assistance Program and wellness web portal also provide a variety of resources for associates and their family members.  Included below are some examples of ongoing activities:

  • All-Associate calls with CEO Roger Ferguson and other executive committee members, which contain business updates and Q&A sessions.
  • All-Associate calls with TIAA senior leaders and mental health professionals to discuss the available resources, support and answer questions.
  • Presentations on COVID-19 related stress and mental health resources during business area and individual team calls across the company as well as a video and one-pager on the mental health resources available to associates on the TIAA intranet.
  • Monthly Healthy Habits challenges related to COVID-19 and mental health for associates in April and planned for May.
  • Mindful Moment meditation sessions for associates three days a week.
  • Increased daily and weekly postings of virtual challenges and wellness content to engage associates on the web portal and Yammer, such as a Work from Home photo contest.
  • Creating a piece for associates and their family members on mental health resources that will be mailed to their homes.
  • COVID-19 Central, an intranet resource page with information, insights and a special section, Working Effectively in Today’s Environment, where associates will find new events, tools, guides and articles each week to help them to stay connected and engaged with others across the organization.

“Recognizing the significant impact Covid-19 has on daily life, TIAA leaders and managers are encouraging associates to break away from work in stressful times in order to recharge and feel well.

TIAA also provides the following benefits:

  • Enhanced Backup Care benefits, by providing a higher daily benefit of $100/per day (from $65/per day) per dependent for up to two dependents through year end; and granting current program users an additional 20 days of support for U.S. associates.
  • 100% Coverage for Covid-19 medical care and treatment for U.S. associates and dependents covered by an Aetna or Kaiser option under the TIAA medical plan.  Deductible and coinsurance will be waived completely for testing, physician visits and hospitalization, as necessary.”

Founded more than 100 years ago by one of history’s great philanthropists, Andrew Carnegie, TIAA is committed to helping institutions and individuals pursue positive outcomes through an array of global, diversified financial services and a long-term investment perspective.

Having grown into a Fortune 100 financial services organization, we are grounded by our core values, committed to responsible investing and dedicated to being a force for good, building on our legacy of serving the broad financial needs of those who make a difference in the world.

7. Verizon Media

“At Verizon Media, we care deeply about our employees’ mental health and emotional wellness. Our focus is on breaking down stigmas and encouraging empathy, awareness and understanding. In the wake of COVID-19, we expanded our resources to support our employees’ mental health. We launched a daily newsletter providing resources to help cope with isolation, anxiety and stress, and created toolkits with tips for leaders to support their teams.

“We hold virtual Q&A sessions with the CEO and guest speakers to address issues affecting mental health. Dr. Jennifer Lanier Payne, associate director of psychiatry at John Hopkins, led a session on managing mental health during COVID-19, and employees heard from world renowned expert in alternative medicine, Deepak Chopra.

“In May, our Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group will lead a conversation with Dr. Marco Grados, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, on mental health and neurodivergence co-occurrence. We expanded our Mindfulness program to offer alternative resources that help employees manage stress, improve sleep and cope with anxiety, and access to virtual crisis counseling sessions.

“We are also featuring stories from employees who are sharing their experiences in the hopes of sparking important conversations.  We are committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace.

“We remain committed to making a positive impact on the global community during this uncertain time.  We recently donated $10 million in ad inventory to five nonprofit organizations raising awareness on mental health, WHO and the CDC to provide a platform for their public service advisories on COVID-19 and to ensure high-risk communities have access to the latest science-based information.  We also partnered with the Ad Council to support their PSA campaigns to raise awareness on social distancing and mental health.”

Verizon Media is a division of Verizon. They house a trusted media ecosystem reaching nearly one billion consumers through their premium brands – including Yahoo, HuffPost, TechCrunch and AOL – and best-in-class ad and media streaming platforms. The company’s state of the art technology and innovation is uniquely positioned to create live and video-on-demand digital, audio and mobile experiences that are both market-tailored and globally distributed.

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Author: JCheang